The Human Aura

by W. J. Colville


Lecture I.

Fundamental Statements.

The two distinct subjects upon which this essay treats are so closely allied in nature and so frequently presented together in modern writings that it seems desirable to consider them as practically inseparable. Since the publication of "Man Visible and Invisible" by that popular Theosophical author and lecturer, C. W. Leadbeater, public interest, as well as curiosity, has been greatly aroused to know how far the startling declarations made in that volume and elsewhere may be fairly considered as correct; and though the subject matter of such a book does not readily admit of close examination, there are many points which can be quite simply discussed regarding the two chief themes on which it discourses — the human aura, and the meaning and use of color.

From the standpoint of clairvoyance alone [4] the general public can hardly stand prepared to judge the merits of any statements, because few people, comparatively speaking, have sufficient experimental acquaintance with interior or greatly extended vision to enable them to testify to the accuracy or inaccuracy of any declarations based on psychic perception alone; but, as in the case of the color side of the question, every one is at full liberty to test the effects produced by various colors upon human beings, animals and vegetables, and also to observe the influence of color in modifying atmospheric temperature, what might otherwise appear to be a very abstruse and entirely occult subject soon becomes a matter for world-wide investigation and demonstration.

The Human Aura, though visible only by the aid of clairvoyance, is palpably discerned or felt by millions of people who know nothing of psychic science or of the development of unusual perceptions. And though this aura, which surrounds every living organism, is vaguely described as "magnetism" by a great many people who have given some attention to it, that word, having a distinct technical meaning in other departments of scientific research, does not very properly describe exactly what we mean by auric effluence or radiation. Personal [5] Magnetism is a convenient and comprehensive phrase which sums up in two words what could only be correctly described by using several sentences, as that title is very frequently given to the total sum of all that influences us when we are brought into contact with some impressive man or woman. The famous Dr. Gregory, of Edinburgh, did not hesitate to name his book "Animal Magnetism or Mesmerism and Its Phenomena," though that volume (the latest edition of which was published in London in London in 1877) gives a review of numerous cases of mental and physical healing through processes now usually termed Suggestive, and also cites many valuable instances of unmistakable clairvoyance. Marie Corelli, in 1886, when the first edition of her still famous novel, "A Romance of Two Worlds," was brought to public attention, substituted the more dignified title "human electricity" to designate the marvellous spiritual or psychic outflow of potential energy from such transcendent characters as Heliobas and his sister Zara. Bulwer Lytton, long before, had familiarized readers with the word Vril, which was certainly derived from Vir, the superior man, distinguished in Latin speech from Homo, an ordinary man. Virtue, virility and all similar well known words, [6] beginning with Vir, speak for themselves concerning their origin, and it is no mystery to the student of Psychic Science to be told by the Evangelists that virtue went forth from a Master and healed sufferers who were receptive to its sway. Virtus means properly a great deal more than the modern world generally understands by virtue, a term which has often been narrowed down almost exclusively to its negative side. Positive force, abounding energy going forth to bless and heal others as well as keeping its generator in perfect health and vigor, was the original meaning of that great strong word which ought to be restored in popular parlance to its pristine fullness of significance. Professor Van der Naillen, whose three romances, "On the Heights of Himalaya," "In the Sanctuary," and "Balthazar the Magus," are replete with valuable teaching regarding the aura of more than ordinarily advanced practitioners of the healing art, has told us that, broadly defined, the human aura may be classified as: 1st — that generated by the ordinary man or woman which extends but a very little way beyond the exterior personality; 2nd — that pertaining to people whose moral and intellectual developments are decidedly above the commonplace, which extends much further away [7] from the physique than in ordinary circumstances; 3rd — that which is generated by Adepts or Arhats who can project their emanations to any part of this planet at their discretion. Such statements agree very fully with all that we can gather from ancient and modern treatises concerning the illimitable possibilities of that subtle and highly potent energy which is clearly an influential, but often an unrecognized, factor in the joint accomplishments of successful telepathy and absent mental healing. To that simply devout type of mind which reposes perfect trust in Deity, and is willing to abstain from all inquiry into the method of divine operations, dissertations concerning the "how" of spiritual healing may appear superfluous, and may sometimes be unwelcome; but the rationalistic intellect is determined to probe the mystery scientifically if possible, and such enquiry into how the blessings are received, for which we are devoutly thankful, in no way tends to diminish our appreciation of the blessings themselves; on the contrary, the scientific student is often for more intelligently grateful than any individual can be who blindly and tacitly accepts a benefaction in complete ignorance of the working of universal order.

The most clearly rational and truly scientific [8] view of matter is that it is only a manifested mode of universal substance. Ancient alchemy and modern chemistry have recently drawn nearer and nearer together, so much so that many of the most renowned among contemporary physicists are announcing themselves converts to the ancient theory of PRIMUM MOBILE or ETHERIA; whether they use the old Latin words or not to convey their meaning is a question of very small importance. There seems to be no stability in the chemical atom when we learn that it is dissoluble into a multitude of electrons, but regardless of what may be dissolved and caused to disappear, the universal simple element, — primal I and ultimate, — out of which all differentiated compounds spring, and into which they must all eventually return, — remains as ever the unalterable source of energy or substance which is neither created when worlds are brought forth nor annihilated when planets are disintegrated.

The simple force or energy of life, the pure spirit of humanity, is Vril, and this it is which builds and heals and can exhibit power to command all combinations of varying elements to appear and disappear.

Natural Magic is a topic which will yet be [9] comprehended by the more thoughtful in the West, as it has long been understood by experts in the East. The Oriental wonder-worker, whose feats bewilder an English spectator, is simply a man who has gained greater control than ordinary over Prana, or the vital energy which he has learned to conserve and direct volitionally, but which the ordinary man allows to become dissipated through lack of self-control or dominion over feelings and appetites. To develop and utilize a good and powerful aura, certain regular exercises are necessary, and at the head of these stand those primary directions concerning rhythmic or harmonic breathing, which are now beginning to attract something like general attention in America and in Europe. The mysterious Yogis of India are a very much higher class of people than the fantastic fakirs who meet the eye of general travellers; for while the latter are public performers, ready to exhibit their abilities at any time for a monetary consideration, the truly advanced magicians are secluded entirely from that vulgar publicity which never affords opportunity for the accomplishment of genuine good to humanity. The powerful animal aura of the external man, which often appears to a clairvoyant as bright red in color, is of great [10] use in the production of the most external feats of magic as well as in aiding those physical manifestations in which Spiritualists took such great interest in the days of D. D. Home and other marvellous "mediums," the record of whose experiences reads sometimes like the wildest legends of fairy lore. The rehabilitated ghost, said to haunt many an ancient castle, is an actual fact in some instances, and the weird phenomena which startle many and interest without terrifying a few modern investigators of psychic mysteries are largely assisted by the AKASA or vital effluence of certain mediumistic people without whose presence psychic phenomena of an external character but very rarely occur.

An exterior and rather coarse grade of aura is employed, often beneficially, by magnetic healers and others who resort to manipulation with a view to conveying strength to debilitated bodies, and this grade of force is also employed to a great degree by hypnotists, who depend largely upon some measure of physical contact, or at least upon close physical proximity to their subjects. This "animal magnetism," which is by no means confined to human beings, is generated copiously by strong, healthy animals who practise hypnotism, in some of its [11] phases, instinctively if not deliberately. This grade of aura, though copious and useful on a superficial plane of action, is not capable of being extensively employed in mental telegraphy or in distant healing, and because this is so it is no uncommon experience to meet people who successfully practise the most external phases of Suggestion, — oral and visual treatment, — who fail to perceive that suggestion can also prove thoroughly effective when all outward agents are absent or withdrawn. The more dependent a man or woman is on personal appearance and tricks of voice and manner, the more superficial is apt to be that individual's work, and though endowed with a large share of "personal magnetism" he or she is very likely to be forgotten readily, even by enthusiastic admirers, after they have removed to a considerable physical distance from the attractive operator. The successful telepathist, who can soon learn to give absent treatments for health and general welfare successfully, is often some one whose intellectual attractiveness far outweighs all personal charm, and who captivates the minds rather than allures the physical senses of those who are impressible. The aura of a highly intellectual man or woman, viewed clairvoyantly, is often distinctively yellow in [12] hue, sometimes of a rich golden color; the effect of such an aura is to stimulate the mental faculties of all who may prove susceptible, to calm the physical emotions, and to regulate the nerves.

The practice of mental telephony is easily comprehended by analogy, now that Marconi's simple system of wireless telegraphy is proving abundantly demonstrable. Ether is a comprehensive word, and it will serve very well for our present purpose as we seek to convey something like a definite picture of how thoughts (or their effects) are transmitted from place to place and from intellect to intellect.

THOUGHTS ARE FORCES is a widely accepted saying, and one which embodies a mighty truth of the highest ethical import, for, if we believe this or anything like it, we shall certainly be led to be far more cautious in the thought realm than is usual. Thoughts are results of brain action, but intelligence moves upon a brain and sets it in definite motion. A materialist is wont to say that brain secretes thought as liver secretes bile; but even if this statement be measurably true, and we are scarcely profited by pronouncing it entirely false, the query remains, How does liver secrete bile? It is only through the agency of a living [13] liver that bile is secreted, and it is only through the medium of a living brain that thoughts are produced. Instruments of thinking the various sections of the brain decidedly may be, in the sense in which we speak of musical instruments, through the agency of which musicians render music; but the men and women, instrumentalists, are they who really produce the sounds we love to hear, for not only do instruments require players or they would be valueless — they must have fashioners and tuners also or they could not exist and be kept in readiness for use. Between human individuality and personality there is almost as much difference as between a cornetist and a cornet. Leadbeater's definition of person from persona, meaning something through which sound proceeds, is undoubtedly accurate, and if such a discrimination between different terms, which are often bewilderingly confounded, were kept clearly in view, controversy would soon wax less fierce and language would become more generally intelligible.

The several bodies of man, enumerated by Theosophists as each within the other and variously made manifest in differing stages of human evolution, afford a profoundly interesting theme for continuous research. The theory is [14] at least, plausible, and when clairvoyant testimony is brought forward to sustain it, it becomes still more pressing a question for all who concern themselves with psychical research. The casual body, which is the innermost of all our bodies, is described by penetrative seers as well developed only in the case of adepts, and by well developed is meant that it really shines through, or that its radiations pierce the several outer vehicles or sheaths of the true ego, which are called respectively our mental, astral and physical bodies.

In the development of the average man or woman whom we meet in fairly refined and rather well educated societies there is always some trace of the emanations of the mental body in the appreciable aura; thus it does not seem incredible to such people that transference of thought even to great distances may be accomplishable, though it is but rarely that any very striking cases of telepathy manifestly occur. To explain the voluntary and also the involuntary transmission of thought from mind to mind, and from place to place, it is necessary to consider how certain mental states affect the aura of the sender and also of the receiver of a mental dispatch; and we must not overlook the closely kindred effect which our [15] mental processes have upon the surrounding atmosphere, for the ether within the common ambient air is truly the conveyor of tidings from mind to mind and from one locality to another.

The practice of concentration or fixity of attention upon a single subject or object deliberately chosen for the purpose tends to regulate and tranquillize the auric circle which surrounds every human being and, to a lesser extent, every living or growing creature. The constant mental movements which people ordinarily make, whether these are carried out to their legitimate sequel in physical disturbances or not, serve to derange the aura and throw it into a billowy condition, somewhat resembling an agitated body of water. To hold the attention centred upon a selected object on any plane of consciousness is to help to overcome the perturbation which is fatal to definite psychic demonstrations, and to all reflecting minds it will soon be obvious that the least effective work, done at the greatest nervous pressure, is the outcome of pursuing a course of life directly opposed to that followed by successful psychologists of all times and periods who stand pre-eminently forward as masters of conditions in the midst of throngs of fellow-workers who [16] readily succumb to the influence of their surroundings.

Environment and circumstance, when these words are used purely in their singular significance, refer entirely to individual aura, though in their plural form of circumstances and environments they may properly be used to designate the sum of those external conditions which more remotely environ us. The orderly classification, — mind, body and estate, — exactly conveys the process whereby the aura is generated and thrown off. The first act is generative, the second act is propulsive, when we consider how aura is constituted and then how it is utilized. Poets and painters have evidently drawn very largely upon the results of seership in giving to the world representations of nimbus, aureole and glory, encircling the head and radiating from the entire person of some unusually elevated individual in the psychic scale. The minor saints, as pictured in Christian art, have only a little ring of light surrounding their heads, but greater saints have much more of this halo; then when the Master is portrayed as walking upon the water, the whole surface of the lake is shown illuminated by his radiations. A diligent comparison of the various Sacred Books of the East with the Jewish and [17] Christian Scriptures, and also with Classic Mythology, followed by a study of later symbolic art, would bring forward an immense array of concurrent testimony to the fact that all over the earth the knowledge of the human aura has at some time spread. Then when we read accounts by Baron von Reichenbach of his experiments demonstrating odylic force or odyle, we shall see that recent European experimentalists reached a conclusion not widely different from ancient Egyptians and Hindus. Not only have human beings been credited with generating a health aura, which they often freely dispense to those weaker than themselves, but all consecrated temples have been charged with this effusion, which, in the first instance, must have proceeded from some human beings, though frequently sacred places were said to possess it to such a degree that healing has often been accomplished in a temporarily deserted temple.

The modern suggestionist who follows Liebault and Bernheim almost exclusively has a tendency to unduly ignore, and sometimes even to stoutly repudiate, the action of a force which Mesmerists and magnetists are apt to overestimate. A wise middle course needs to be found and to be steadily pursued between the extreme [18] of mental suggestionism and an overrating of physical exudations. The Bible, in both Testaments, gives many instances of both aspects of this immense subject. We read in some places of an energy actually going forth from a healer to a patient, and of this energy being transmitted in a decidedly corporeal manner; we also find numerous records of what would now be called "absent mental healing." Nothing is lost to any rational metaphysical system by granting to "animal magnetism" a certain subordinate position as a transmissive agent; indeed it seems absurd to deny, if metaphysical premises have been accepted, that it can possibly be otherwise than that our mental condition should most extensively affect our physique and all its emanations. If every practitioner of massage and of osteopathy, as well as every announced magnetic healer, understood something definitely concerning aura and how it is generated, purified, and vitiated, — initially in all cases by mental activities, — a very great addition would quickly be made to the benefits accruing as results of the practice of these various schools of mechanical or medical practitioners. Knowledge of how something is done does not always accompany one's doing of that something, but knowledge is certainly [19] necessary if we wish to be able to do our best work in the most intelligent manner. Very good results often follow from the mental and magnetic treatments given by uniformed persons, because if people live in good-will to their neighbors and are at peace within themselves, they unconsciously generate a good, healthy aura, which helps delicate, sensitive sufferers who are brought into contact with it.

The health aura is clairvoyantly described as rose pink in color, and from this original vision, which dates to remote antiquity, we have become familiar with "rose-colored" as a term implying cheerful and optimistic. Rose-colored glasses do literally conduce to cheerfulness, in accordance with the readily ascertained law of correspondential suggestion. Thus it is that from within to without and from without to within is a perpetually alternating or reflex-natural process, leading to the continuance of inductive and deductive schools alike of philosophy and medicine. Plato and Aristotle simply viewed the same phenomena from exactly opposite standpoints, and their respective disciples do precisely the same to-day. The Platonist is a thorough metaphysician, while the Aristotelian is a physicist, but they can work harmoniously together in a single college when [20] both have grown to see that the one begins with causes and works outward to effects, while the other begins with effects and works inward to causation.

The starting point of the auric radiation, call it by whatever name we may, is always far below (more correctly behind or within) the surface of our existence. So very common a word as perspiration is of dignified origin, coming from per, which means through, and spirare, to breathe. To perspire is literally to breathe through a vehicle, and certainly the nature of the outbreathing must be determined by that which is at work within. This idea of breathing through a mask, so to speak, has always served to convey with great clearness and essential doctrine, — common alike to all Gnostics, Theosophists, Spiritualists, and Occultists, — that the real man is immeasurably more than his physical habiliments; though, unlike some schools of metaphysicians, none of those groups of students of psychic problems whom we have just enumerated verbally or technically deny the existence of the physical body or the world of gross matter, which is simply the final or most external vehicle through which the ego or entity reveals itself in expression. Astrology, chirology, and all [21] other reputedly Occult Sciences can be interpreted aright only through familiarity with the human aura, because the state of our aura determines our susceptibility or non-susceptibility in the presence of all conceivable elements and vibrant influences. Nothing can well be more evident than the undeniable fact that many persons constantly exposed to the rudest play of the elements, and also to highly contagious conditions and diseases, — nurses, doctors and priests are three notable classes of exposed individuals, — are remarkably immune from contagion. This immunity can be scientifically accounted for in one way only, viz., by discovering that the general mental and physical conditions of such persons more nearly than ordinarily approximate toward an ideally aseptic state. The aura of the priest, of the physician, and of the trained nurse is, generally speaking, stronger than that of the average friend or relative of a sick person, who feels armed with no special knowledge or authority, and consequently is much more liable to infection. The aura of the young doctor is normally bright red in color and strong, though not particularly refined; that of the maturer and well-balanced physician normally presents a purple tint, as, with addition to mere strength and [22] self-confidence, we detect benevolence of a riper sort and greater susceptibility to higher than physical influences. The gentleness, coupled with firmness, which very often characterizes the trained nurse and the sister of charity, betokens a maturity of thought and feeling which gives rise to a rich purplish violet aura, which exerts a soothing and also a bracing effect upon sensitive, receptive patients.

The great exercise whereby the aura is developed most of all is regular rhythmic breathing, the importance of which can scarcely be overestimated. To breathe righteously is to use the entire lung capacity for inhaling and exhaling air, and in connection with the inhaling and exhaling of pure outer atmosphere it is highly desirable to dwell upon prana, the life force which pervades the atmosphere, and apart from which no living organism can be either produced or sustained. The real nature of this prana is elemental force, and to the extent that it is rendered subject to human will in the human body is any man or woman enabled to control the elements external to humanity, which are in no essential respect different from the constituents of the human organism itself.

The somewhat intricate directions given for harmonic breathing to Western disciples by [23] Eastern teachers can be followed out in measure only by the average European or American with comfort and benefit, but though some Oriental methods may not be well adapted to the typical Occidental temperament, all fundamental statements are identical when made by teachers of the true Science of Breath the wide globe over. The principal requisite in every case is, first, to clearly decide mentally what course one determines to pursue, and what particular grace or gift one especially resolves to cultivate, and, secondly, to see oneself mentally surrounded with a luminous aura indicative of the condition one is resolved to attain and manifest. Having made an unalterable determination to cultivate some specific virtue or unfold some definite talent, the student must, on retiring at night and before rising in the morning, make a clear mental picture of the condition to be attained, which, as yet, is outwardly unrealized. To see oneself surrounded with a pure white luminous circle of clear white aura is to suggest perfect harmony with life and things in general; therefore such a mental exercise in civilization is one of the most profitable in which we can possibly engage. For all general purposes white is all-sufficient, and when it is conceived as of [24] diamond-like brightness, all imaginable tints and hues of color radiating from a perfect centre, no other mental suggestion in the field of color symbolism can equal it in beauty or inclusiveness. But as our most deeply felt necessities are often distinctly particular and relative, and perfect whiteness denotes the absolute, we do well to distinguish thoughtfully between color values and map out for our special edification precisely that shade of color which signifies the manifest expression of exactly that mental quality which we desire most of all immediately to express. Chromopathy, as taught and practised by Dr. E. D. Babbitt, is an elaborate yet simple system, based on extensive knowledge of color values, and this system can be really mastered in a comparatively short time by serious students of average ability. The special therapeutic effects of color are more completely set forth in the writings of Dr. Babbitt than by any other author with whose publications we are familiar. From the teachings of Dr. Babbitt we deduce the following general conclusions:

RED is always a stimulant, tending to arouse every faculty which is subjected to its influence; consequently, light admitted through red glass or even red furniture, clothing, flowers, paint [25] or wall paper is recommended for all persons whose tendencies are sluggish or despondent. Red, in all its various degrees, ranging from pale pink to vivid scarlet, can be used with advantage as a stimulant. Pink is especially conducive to awakening hope, and is consequently an effective antidote for melancholia; while all pronounced shades of red, due to more powerful etheric vibrations, stimulate both mind and body to the utmost activity.

BLUE is particularly beneficial in all cases where excitement has been too intense; it is therefore to be employed in all feverish situations. Blue glass was never a "craze," but, its efficacy being necessarily limited, it could not possibly prove a cure-all or universal panacea. When sunlight is not obtainable, electric light affords an effective substitute; in every modern home it ought to be easy to practise chromopathy to some extent. Red and blue are the colors which are most frequently required, as they are perfect opposites, red being the universal stimulant and blue the universal sedative, but YELLOW must not be ignored, and though its influence is not quite so generally recognized as that of blue or red, from palest primrose to brightest amber yellow has a large field in which to work, especially as an aid to [26] intellectual development. Paralysis and all other nervous disorders are amenable to yellow light treatment.

VIOLET, which is the most spiritual of the seven prismatics, is also an antidote for many nervous perturbations, because its tendency is to lead our thoughts away from the petty cares and trivial anxieties of the external world, and direct our attention toward the abiding realities of the celestial realm.

Dr. Babbitt relates intensely interesting cases of the cure of lunacy through the aid of properly adjusted color. We all know that mental aberrations are of many varieties, and that insanity ranges all the way from stupid, solid melancholy to the most violent and dangerous excitability. Morbid taciturnity, which is a not uncommon phase of mania, must be treated with red, and it is reported that an eminent Italian specialist, Dr. Ponga, director of the Lunatic Asylum at Alexandria, has placed patients in rooms properly colored to suit their special necessities with such good effect that morbid taciturnity has, within a few hours, given place to healthy cheerfulness. Another maniac, who could take no food whatever elsewhere, developed a natural appetite in the same red chamber. Blue chambers are equally [27] beneficial, but they are required for the occupancy of violent maniacs, who are often very quickly quieted by the soothing, tranquillizing effect of blue. Violet has been known to cure a patient in a single night, according to the same testimony.

This shows that color forces act both by day and by night, though when the light is most intense the effect is apt to be most quickly produced, especially when arousing rather than when quieting influences are needed. The whole scheme of Color Therapeutics is extremely fascinating, and it opens a most delightful as well as fruitful field for all who prefer to operate with the finer than with the cruder grades of the force of nature. The element of suggestion can never be eliminated from any variety of healing practice; therefore it is not feasible to endeavor to decide exactly to what extent color has done a work apart from mental influences acting independently of physical accessories. But this admission far from weakening the efficacy of color treatment, tends decidedly to increase and strengthen it, because it opens up an enormous field for investigation in the purely psychic domain, which we often term a distinctly superjective realm. We are not always so situated, especially if we [28] travel extensively, that we can arrange our exterior environments exactly to our taste or pleasure, and it is when we cannot do so that we find the exclusively psychic aspects of this subject particularly important. The occult method of practising chromopathy is to close the external eyes and make a distinct mental picture of a belt or ring of color around the entire person. Make your auric effluence objective on the plane of mental vision. See yourself enveloped in the sheen of light which must be pictured forth to you, in the symbolic language of correspondence, exactly in the condition you wish it to manifest. Go to sleep, or pass to a superior condition resembling ecstasy, while dwelling upon that vision which you have suggested to yourself voluntarily, and you will soon find that, whatever your external surroundings may be, you have gained repose and reached a state of equilibrium, otherwise practically unattainable without definite outside assistance. A little steady practice of the art of visualizing will soon suffice to demonstrate how very much more power we really have over our psychic and sleeping conditions than we have hitherto supposed. Every one's aura is under his control, if he only determines to regulate it, and it stands to reason that nothing can be so [29] conducive to an enlarged sphere of individual liberty as to get accustomed to determine our psychic state regardless of physical environments.

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